Elk Mountain Hike



Country: United States

Location: Olympic National Park, Washington

Round trip: 6 km

Start elevation: 1860 m

Final elevation: 2060 m

Map: 1:62,500, Hurricane Ridge, Custom Correct

Contributor: Alan Tracey/David Sellars

getting there

Drive to the Hurricane Ridge Visitor Centre from Port Angeles and then take the gravel road east to the parking lot at Obstruction Point

featured plant

Collomia debilis var. larsenii

partial plant list

Allium crenulatum

Anemone occidentalis

Campanula piperi

Campanula rotundifolia

Cassiope mertensiana

Collomia debilis var. larsenii

Douglasia laevigata

Erigeron compositus

Erythronium grandiflorum

Erythronium montanum

Lilium columbianum

Lupinus lepidus var.lobbii

Orobanche uniflora var. purpurea

Penstemon davidsonii var. menziezii

Phlox diffusa

Phlox hendersonii

Phyllodoce glanduliflora

Phyllodoce empetriformis

Phacelia sericea

Castilleja species

Saxifraga bronchialis

Saxifraga caespitosa

Veronica cusickii

Viola adunca


Leaving the parking lot at Obstruction Point and walking along the trail heading north and east toward Elk Mountain  one need progress no more than 1 or 2 km in order to find numerous, and some of the less abundant, plants of the Olympic mountains.  Not far from the parking lot and located in a few rocky crevices two Olympic endemics will be found,  Campanula piperi and Viola flettiiViola adunca is also found in this area but V. fletti is distinguished by its kidney-shaped leaves with purple stems and veins and cannot be confused with its cousin.  Further along, the trail passes through scree fields where our featured plant, Collomia debilis var. larsenii will be found.  This beautiful highlander is not endemic here but is quite rare throughout its range. Another highlight of the Olympics is Douglasia laevigata with its blossoms of various shades of pink and red and it will be encountered throughout this walk as will a third Olympic endemic, the paintbrush Castilleja parviflora var. olympica which is almost identical in its pink colouration to the Owl clover, Orthocarpus imbricatus, with which it associates.  These are partially parasitic plants, feeding off the roots of other plants.  Another parasitic plant, the diminutive Orobanche uniflora var. purpurea will also be seen by the careful observer.

This is a good non-strenuous walk that gives access to many plants not otherwise easily found.  A little scrambling into rockier areas will prove even more rewarding with such plants as the diminutive Phlox hendersonii, the hairy-leaved potentilla, Potentilla hirsuta, and ever more colour forms of Douglasia laevigata.